Review by Steven Bochenek

If you just want to see some funny car ads, skip down a bit to the video link. If you like hearing a bitter old professional creative ramble on about those funny car ads, read on!

Advertising awards shows are typically a sea of botoxed big hair and toque-clad stubble, all wearing sunglasses indoors.  What’s worst is the self-congratulation that makes this nakedly pandering article about Autos.ca’s parent company’s marketing seem mild.

Bitterness aside some shows are worthy of respect. They insist not only that each submission be ‘creative’, of course, but that it actually produced results. And they demand proof. One of these is the Cassies. Like other award shows it still has a silly name but, unlike most, it demands a case study, demonstrating genuine results.

So the editors of Autos.ca and I are happy to congratulate and, yes, openly plug autoTRADER.ca’s success as the 2013 Cassies Grand Prix Winner. The campaign improved the publication’s business and also was creative. We’re here to celebrate the latter… and show off our brand new campaign that is the next great thing in car advertising. No really, no one’s paying me to say that.

The ‘Hey Martha’ Effect in Full Effect

As every four-year old already knows (but every 50-year old product manager hears again from her agency at the beginning of every creative presentation) an ad has to ‘grab your attention’.

Some call it the ‘Hey Martha’ effect, that big something that hooks you and makes you want to share it. So you say to the wife: “Hey, Martha! That toilet paper’s named after a mountainous warzone now.” Or, “Hey, Martha! ‘It’s Patrick! He’s bought life insurance!’”

Click below, then on the links in the top right corner to see autoTRADER.ca’s spots from the 2013 Cassies’ Grand Prix campaign. For the advanced class (aka four-year-olds) ask yourself where the ‘Hey Martha’ moment is. Serious geeks can read the case study.

http://cassies.ca/entry/viewcase/7162

Creative technique: storytelling – or “What happened next?”

Note how the Date and Stoplight ads throw you into the story in medias res. We humans are hardwired to listen to stories. Our ancestors’ lives were nasty, brutish, short and rarely ended well. (On the upside, they didn’t have advertising awards shows.) So they told stories around the campfires of heroes who faced and overcame even greater adversity, and identified with them. They vicariously lived the hero’s journey through these stories – and felt better – just before being eaten by a lion.

The theory goes that you’re more likely to reward marketers with your attention to a story than if they threw a straight pitch.

Creative technique: product demo – solving a consumer’s problem

While the ads launch you into the middle of a story, they also display the product and how it works as the solution to the problem the ‘heroes’ are all experiencing. How do I, a car-buyer, find the right car-seller? It’s a great creative launching pad and the possibilities for stories are endless. That’s smart!

Creative technique: juxtaposition — or providing a visual puzzle

If I show you something ‘wrong’, like a tiny man beside a huge phone, a talking dog, or that old favourite, a fat guy in a cocktail dress, you’ll probably want to keep looking. When things aren’t what we expect to see, we need to know more. Again your brain is hardwired to react with cautious curiosity when you see something unexpected. This could be danger; it could also be food. Hence the popular expression ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’

Just look how often autoTRADER.ca employed juxtaposition in the past. Below, a happily married woman suddenly announces to her husband during their tin anniversary dinner that, after a picture-perfect 10-year marriage, she’s leaving him. Gobsmacked, he watches as she moves over and starts chatting up the guy at the next table. ‘Why the ‘wrongness’ in this picture?’ you want to know.

Then, you’re rewarded for your attention with a solution to the ‘puzzle’: life partner equals car. Good analogy. Note the tagline at the end of the ad. It stresses the resolution to each ‘wrong’ scenario, emphasizing ‘You can do that at autoTRADER.ca.’ Which was that earlier campaign’s big goal.




About StevenBochenek

Despite being a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and a member of its house band, the Troubadours, Steven is a veteran marketing writer who came to writing about cars almost by, umm, accident.